Saturday, June 30, 2007


While I'm throwing stats at you, I might as well do my monthly roundup of all the pop culture I've ingested...

I read 5 books this month - Then We Came to the End; I Love You, Beth Cooper; and books 4-6 in the Harry Potter series (which were rereads). That's not quite the 6 I needed to get back on pace for the year's goal (which is 40 books) but it is my highest monthly total this year. I've now read 19 books in 2007, which puts me on pace for 38...and that is what I've read for the last 2 years. I guess we'll see what happens. I do have 2 books on the shelves waiting to be read and, of course, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be (hopefully) arriving three weeks from today. My average for the year is 3.17 books read each month.

I read only 9 stories in June, which brings my total to 89 on the year. Sadly, that total is higher than my May total was. Eventually, the story totals will go up since I still have a bunch of SF magazines stacked up waiting to be read and two more should be arriving soon; I also have my eye on some original anthologies. I'm averging just a shade under 15 stories read per month so far this year.

I read only 5 comics in June, 4 trades and 1 single issue. That brings my total on the year to 85, of which 19 have been trades. From here on, I will be reading mostly trades with just the occasional single issue thrown depending on my interest in a specific project. I'm averaging 14.17 comics read per month or 11 single issues per month and 3.17 trades per month. Hmm, the trades and the books totals are equal.

I bought, downloaded, or received 13 CDs in June, which is the same total as May. That gives me 60 new albums on the year, an average of 10 per month. Wow. Well, the eMusic subscription certainly inflates those numbers. Two of the CDs this month were EPs and I counted 9 EPs on the year so far. I also downloaded 1 song this month (Wilco's "The Thanks I Get") for a total of 11 on the year (or 1.83 per month).

I saw 4 movies in June - Knocked Up; Surf's Up; Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer; and Ratatouille. Of those, I liked Knocked Up the best; in fact, it's right up there with Zodiac for my favorite movie of the year so far. This was my biggest month for seeing movies and gives me a total of 11 on the year; it's highly possible I hadn't seen 11 movies in the theater the past two years combined. That's an average of 1.83 per month (same as single songs).

Once again, I'm not sure what I've watched on DVD this past month. I know Grant and I finished off Superman Animated Series Vol. 2 and we've watched 12 episodes of Batman Animated Series Vol. 2 (as well as a feature and a commentary). We've watched the first three Harry Potter movies to get Grant up to speed. I've watched an episode from The Wire Season Three (and may watch another yet tonight). Can't think of anything else; I do plan on keeping better track here in the second half of the year, however.

So, there you go - another month of pop culture boiled down to numbers. Thrilling, wasn't it?

It's been well-established that I love statistics; it's that baseball fan in me that has to crunch numbers. Sometimes I think I should have gone through with my idea to pursue actuarial science back in college but that really has nothing to do with this. Hmm, not sure why I even mentioned it. Anyway, here's the breakdown on my performances so far this year. I played on 32 separate occasions. The songs I played are listed in order of creation; 6 date from last year (there is a 7th from last year but that was only ever played once and isn't likely to be again anytime soon) and the rest are from this year (I will include debut dates). So, how many times did I play each song?

Woke Up - 6
That's Okay - 10
Song For a Day - 3
Decoder Ring - 7
Tuesday - 1
Holding Pattern - 4
23 Across (debuted on Jan. 18) - 6
Dear Prospective Employer (debuted Jan. 25) - 18
The Only Thing (debuted on Mar. 27) - 5
A Phase (debuted on Mar. 29, my 36th birthday) - 4
Let's Get Married Tonight (debuted on Apr. 17) - 8
Until the Weather (debuted on Apr. 26) - 5
Gonna Write a Book (debuted on May 29) - 3
Could Have Been (debuted on June 14) - 4
In the Dark (debuted on June 26) - 2

I played 15 of my own songs a total of 86 times, from a high of 18 ("Dear Prospective Employer") to a low of 1 ("Tuesday," which I have decided to retire). I debuted 2 songs in January, March, April, and June, as well as 1 in May. February was a dead period for new stuff, I guess.

I also played a handful of cover songs...

Perfectly Good Guitar (John Hiatt) - twice
Our Love (Rhett Miller)
Heavy Metal Drummer (Wilco)
International Small Arms Traffic Blues (The Mountain Goats)
Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash) - twice
Stolen Car (Bruce Springsteen)
Atlantic City (Bruce Springsteen)

...for a total of 9 more songs played. That puts the total played up to 95 on the year. However, I also played a number of times with Graham Smith on his songs...

The Sigh Begins - 3
Poor - 2
Give Yourself - 1
Liquor Sink - 2
Jews & Gypsies - 2
Wednesday - 1
My Little Zombie Girl - 1

...for a total of 12 more songs played. That puts the number of songs I played at 107 in six months, an average of 17.83 songs played each month. I performed an average of 5.33 times each month and I averaged 3.34 songs played each time I performed. I should also mention that Graham played on my songs 12 times sprinkled throughout that time and Tom Adamson played with me on one song.

I hadn't realized I'd played so much but it's cool to look at the last six months this way. I really feel like I've come into my own as a performer and that I'm starting to write some really good songs. I'm looking forward to much more the second half of the year.

I've spent the last 11 days rereading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, thus completing my "Harry Potter Project." That's over 1500 pages of the story; I've seen ads in Barnes & Noble telling us how many pages we've all read and how many more there are to go (somewhere in the 740 page range, I believe). But for now, I want to say a few things about the pages I just read.

The most recent book came out two years ago and the one before that came out four years ago, so I hadn't remembered everything about the story. The big story, sure, especially the death of Dumbledore that occurred at the end of book six. I remembered Umbridge from the fifth book, as well as Dumbledore's Army and all sorts of other things. I also remembered how J.K. Rowling made you like Ginny Weasley quite a bit before Harry himself realizes the same thing (very well done on her part). I had forgotten all about the prophecy and Horcruxes and smaller points as well. But now I feel I'm armed and ready to experience the last book in the way it should be experienced. Guess I'll find that out for sure in three weeks...

Friday, June 29, 2007


I used up my downloads very quickly this time around. My plan was to then load everything onto the iPod and really try to dig in to the new stuff. I put it on the iPod but I've only listened to each album a couple times, with one exception. Anyway, here's what I grabbed this time around...

The National/Boxer - I've listened to this album most of all, as I like it a lot
The Ladybug Transistor/Can't Wait Another Day - More Merge pop goodness
Superchunk/Come Pick Me Up - Continuing my education on this great band
Andrew Bird/Armchair Apocypha - Decided to see what the hype was about
Irving/Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers - The band Sea Wolf was in
Voxtrot/Your Biggest Fan - An EP from another buzzed-about band

I forgot to do this at the end of last month, so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone...


I played 7 open mics in May - 4 times at Front Porch Music and 3 times at Anneliesje's. Here are the songs I played and how many times I played them, along with other pertinent information...

Until the Weather (4)
Let's Get Married Tonight (4)
Dear Prospective Employer (5)
Heavy Metal Drummer (1) - a Wilco cover
A Phase (1)
Decoder Ring (1)
Woke Up (1)
Gonna Write A Book (2) - debuted on the 29th
That's Okay (2)
International Small Arms Traffic Blues (1) - a Mountain Goats cover done with a friend sitting in on guitar; it was completely impromptu


In June I played 6 times - twice at Anneliesje's and 4 times at Front Porch. The first time I played Anne's, however, was another first for me - I was the host. That meant I got extra time to play (a half hour) and then had to make sure everyone else was set up. It was a fun night and I earned some money for it too. Here's the statistical breakdown...

Decoder Ring (1)
Dear Prospective Employer (2)
Gonna Write A Book (1)
That's Okay (3)
Ring of Fire (2) - a Johnny Cash cover with harmonica
Let's Get Married Tonight (1)
Stolen Car (1) - a Bruce Springsteen cover with harmonica
Could Have Been (4) - debuted on the 14th
In the Dark (2) - debuted on the 26th
Atlantic City (1) - another Bruce Springsteen cover

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I've been reading the sixth Harry Potter book for a few days, after staying up late on Sunday night to finish the fifth book. I hope to be done with this one by Saturday at the latest; I have around 400 pages left to go.

I finished a new song over the weekend, which is the second song I've written this month. Last night I played "In the Dark" for the first time and "Could Have Been" for the third (and the first at Anneliesje's). I also tried a cover of Springsteen's "Atlantic City" and it went pretty well.

I spent an hour in the pool on Monday; 4 hours yesterday; and I will spend 3 and-a-half tomorrow. The good news is that I was completely off today and will be on Friday. Friday will be dedicated to seeing "Ratatouille." I'd also like to see the new "Die Hard" movie too.

I went and bought Led Zeppelin III today; Jill and Graham are thinking about doing a joint cover (Graham on guitar; Jill on percussive tap dance) of "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" and since the album has two of my favorite Zep songs that I don't have on the two-disc Remasters ("Gallows Pole" and "Tangerine"), I figured I might as well pick it up.

The new White Stripes album is fantastic, by the way.

Speaking of fantastic, you should all head over to Merge Records and listen to the stream of the new Spoon album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. It comes out on July 10 (as does Jason Isbell's solo record!).

The White Sox have managed to win three in a row after getting swept by the Cubs over the weekend; meanwhile, the Cubs turned around and just swept the Rockies.

Guess that's about it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


We're wondering if summer will return today - yesterday it only got to about 63 degrees and rained most of the day. Today the prediction is a high of 78 and sunny but it's cool and wet right now. We'll see...

1. Black Flowers/Yo La Tengo (8)
2. Jaipur/The Mountain Goats (6)
3. Sunken Treasure (live)/Jeff Tweedy (4)
4. Passing the Hat/Cold War Kids (6)
5. It's Not the End of the World/Sloan (10)
6. New Disaster/Elliott Smith (5)
7. I Didn't Come Here to Die/Spoon (9)
8. I Better Run/The Rosebuds (5)
9. The Animal Has Left Its Shell/Superchunk (9)
10. Violin For Mom/Kathleen Edwards (10)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I've spent the past three days reading two things - Fables: Sons of Empire and the April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Fables: Sons of Empire is the 9th volume in the long-running series, collecting 8 issues. We get the 4 issue "Sons of Empire," which focuses on the potential invasion plans (of the entire Mundane world) of the Adversary and his council. That is intercut with bits that catch us up on Flycatcher, Red Riding Hood, Boy Blue, and more. That's followed by the Christmas issue, "Jiminy Christmas!," in which on the wolf cubs meets Santa and learns his secrets. Next is the two issue "Father and Son," drawn by Mike Allred; it shows what happens when Bibgy, Snow White, and their children visit the North Wind in his castle. Finally, there's an issue devoted to reader questions and it's drawn by a variety of artists. I wouldn't suggest this volume as a starting point to the series but for long time readers, it's a solid group of issue if not quite on par with the high points of the series. Oh, it is always written by Bill Willingham and usually drawn by Mark Buckingham.

As for F&SF, it is a special "Gene Wolfe issue," featuring commentary on Gene from Neil Gaiman and Michael Swanwick (two of my favorite writers), a more critical essay on his work, and a new longer Wolfe story, "Memorare." Wolfe is one of those writers I always respect when I run across his work and I should really start seeking more of it out...trying one of his novels, perhaps. His story here is one about memorials in space that can be dangerous as well as the dangers of our relationships - it's good stuff. The rest of the issue is rounded out with the usual columns and stories from David Gerrold (with a fun sequel to a recent story), Donald Mead (a so-so story about the aftermath of the Donner party), and David D. Levine (with a cool look at a made-up legend and its impact, told in reverse.

So, what's the "in-between" here? Well, I've decided to stop my practice of putting two books in between my "Harry Potter Project," so I've started the fifth book. At this point, I'm letting the story carry me..we'll see if I can be totally reread by the end of the month...

Sunday, June 17, 2007


It's been a while since I posted any reviews, so I thought I should catch up. Since my last review post, I've read 4 books and 4 trades...

It only took me 2 days to reread Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book of the series (and of my "Harry Potter Project"). It's the first book to not feature Voldemort as the main villain; instead, one of his supporters appears to have broken out of the wizard prison Azkaban and is after Harry. Of course, things aren't as straightforward as that. This book also features such cool bits as the Marauder's Map, which shows not only a map of Hogwarts but who is where in the castle, and Hermione's use of a Time Turner, which allows her to take multiple classes at the same time and also plays a big role in the finale of the book. For me, this book kicked the whole series into another gear the first time around and I was just as enthralled the second time around.

Next up was All-Star Superman Vol. 1, which collects the first six issues of the series that reimagines Superman (somewhat akin to Marvel's Ultimate line). This series is by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, which I feel is one of the best writer/artist teams working today. The first issue features Superman rescuing an inventor on the Sun, which appears will lead to Superman's death. So what does he do? He tells Lois that he, Clark Kent, is Superman. That's the first issue. From there we get Supermen of the future; Lois getting super-powers for a day; Clark and Luthor in the midst of a super-powered prison riot; Jimmy Olsen as a cool, capable man; black Kryptonite; and the death of Pa Kent. It is a series full of cool ideas and visuals with plenty of heart. It is what super-hero comics should be and I highly recommend it.

I've mentioned my love for the Legion of Super-Heroes on this blog several times. Of course, my Legion of Super-Heroes has been gone for more than a decade at this point - the franchise has been rebooted a couple times since the mid-90s. Right now there is a story going on in a JLA/JSA crossover that features that original Legion (more on that later this week) and it made me decide to try the latest Legion reboot. Legion of Super-Heroes: Teenage Revolution collects the first six issues of the latest series, which is written by Mark Waid and drawn by Barry Kitson. The future that this Legion is in is one of homogeneity and the young Legion members want to shake up society. They find themselves at odds with the United Planets and the Science Police. These characters aren't the same as they were but there are still some similarities. I liked it well enough to want to pick up the next trade at some point.

My next read was the debut novel by Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End. It's about an ad agnecy that is going through a wave of layoffs and what happens to the people...gossip and odd behavior and humanity and anxiety and meanness and friendship. It's also written in the royal "we," which is a very interesting choice. It allows for wide-ranging viewpoints but also keeps things at a distance for a while. By the latter half of the book, you don't notice it as much, however. This is a solid book but I wouldn't put it on a par with, say, Max Barry's Company (though that novel is not as straightforward as this). Still, when it comes out in paperback, you may want to give it a look.

I went right into another book, I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. In it, Dennis Cooverman uses his valedictory speech to profess his love for the titular head cheerleader. From there, things become very interesting for Dennis and his friend Rich. I'd say more but I wouldn't want to ruin it for you. Think of the really good movies about high school and you'll have the gist; in fact, Doyle starts each chapter with a quote from one of those movies. The book is hilarious and really, really good. You should read it.

I switched back to comics after that, reading Nexus Archives Volume 2. Nexus and Judah found themselves on the Bowl-Shaped World and met up with The Badger, a crazy martial-arts master who calls everyone "Larry." Meanwhile, Sundra and Jil went into business (and more) together and Tyrone got himself elected the first president of Ylum. After that, the slaver Clausius makes his return and Nexus investigates ways to stop the dreams that haunt him. Oh, and we learn a bit more about where his powers might originate. The issues collected here are from the early 80s but they still seem fresh. Mike Baron and Steve Rude created a masterpiece with this series and I'm counting down the days until I can justify buying the next volume of this series. Oh, and there are new issues about to be published as well!

I made a rare foray into Marvel Comics after that, reading Doctor Strange: The Oath, which collects the five issue mini-series. Why Doctor Strange? It was written by Brian K. Vaughan (and Marcos Martin on art didn't hurt either). The story is about magic and medicine and goes back to the beginnings of Doctor Strange and features what could be the end of his faithful servant Wong. Oh, and Vaughan uses Night Nurse and it world wonderfully. Proof that Vaughan is one of the best writers in the comics industry.

Finally, I spent the last 6 days reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It's tough to get through a 700 plus page book quickly. It's also tough to not spend all your time reading it. The Quidditch World Cup. The return of the Death Eaters. The Triwizard Tournament. Students from other schools. A dance. The full return of Voldemort. If you like this series, this is certainly an important book. Hard to believe it's been 7 years since I first read it...

I should also mention that I read the April/May double issue of Asimov's in there somewhere too. And that brings us to today, where I will start another trade.

Happy Father's Day, especially to those of you celebrating for the first time. I got a nice gift card to Best Buy from my wife and son, which will be used in part on Tuesday to pick up the new White Stripes. Can't wait!

1. So Long, Lonesome/Explosions in the Sky (4)
2. Song for a Clock/Portastatic (13)
3. Smarter Hearts/Superchunk (2) - Hey, it's Mac again
4. The Bachelor and the Bride/The Decemberists (4)
5. It's Not the End of the World/Sloan (9)
6. Stuck Between Stations/The Hold Steady (19)
7. Hold On to This Coat/The Rosebuds (5)
8. My Heart Is Beating/Mary Weiss (3)
9. Word on the Street/The Brokedown (12) - I really should change this to The Broken West
10. Hale Sunrise/The Broken West (9) - Heh

Sunday, June 10, 2007


My downloads just refreshed yesterday, so it's time to let you know what I grabbed the previous month...

Elliott Smith/New Moon - Fantastic double album of unreleased material
The Clientele/God Save the Clientele - 60s-type pop record
The White Stripes/The White Stripes - Their first album; why did it take me so long to get it?
The Twilight Sad/Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters - Rock with a thick Scottish accent
Arcade Fire/"Broken Window" - a b-side to "Keep The Car Running"

Let's face know you missed it.

1. C.I.A./Ted Leo + Pharmacists (5)
2. My Time (Has Come)/The Twilight Singers (12)
3. There Will Be No Divorce/The Mountain Goats (7)
4. Flying High Again/Sloan (10)
5. Ana Lucia/Sloan (10)
6. Some Beginner's Mind/Ted Leo + Pharmacists (4)
7. Matches/The Format (7)
8. Just a Star/Canasta (5)
9. There's Been An Accident/The Twilight Singers (9)
10. Cubs In Five/The Mountain Goats (10)

Looks like a day of doubling up. Huh. A fair amount of those songs have gotten more play on the iPod too. Anyway, see you next Sunday!


I was mentioning changes to the blog again last weekend. This stems from the fact that very few people read this blog and, from time to time, I think about ways of trying to get more people to read it. I realize, though, that it is what it is - my occasional chatter about things pop culture. I will never be a regular poster for any length of time and that's not a bad thing. So, I've decided to just continue on as I've been. Readers will come or not. I enjoy doing it when I'm doing it and that's just fine. I'm within distance of 300 posts and I'll start slowly working on 400 after that. So, stick around for another "Sunday Shuffle" because I like to do them...

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Today is going to be final entry of this feature. I know I stopped it for a while once before and then brought it back but it has really run its course. Chances are the blog is going to go through some changes and this is one of them. Forty of these is plenty. I will make it a "double issue" on the way out since I'm working on my progress reports and will have to sit here for a while. RIP, Sunday Shuffle...

1. Mr. Tough/Yo La Tengo (12)
2. Theologians (live)/Jeff Tweedy (5)
3. Chill Out/The Hold Steady (17)
4. Jet Stream/Brendan Benson (11)
5. The Gymnast, High Above the Ground/The Decemberists (4)
6. Don't Tell Your Eyes/Joseph Arthur (13)
7. No Backbone/The Lemonheads (10)
8. Song For Sunshine/Belle and Sebastian (8)
9. The World Stops Turning/Ted Leo + Pharmacists (4)
10. Bad Dreams/M. Ward (5)
11. Nobody But You/The Black Keys (8)
12. Ocean of Noise/Arcade Fire (10)
13. December/The Lemonheads (10)
14. Failed Queen/Shearwater (10)
15. Bloodhounds On My Trail/The Black Angels (9)
16. Change My Life/Spoon (10)
17. the sun fell on you (ps 119:82)/The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers (22)
18. Skinny Boy/Amy Millan (10)
19. Non-Pythagorean Composition 1/Apples In Stereo (5)
20. Miss Misery (Early Version)/Elliott Smith (5)

Friday, June 01, 2007


Yes, it's that time again...time for me to list all the pop culture I've ingested over the last month. Some of it I've already written about; some not. The usual drill.

I read 3 books in May, one of which was a Harry Potter reread. That brings my total to 14 for the year. You may recall I had set myself a goal of 5 books for the month. Obviously, that didn't happen. If I'm to make my goal of 40 for the year, I should have 20 done by the end of June. If I couldn't do 5 last month, how will I do 6 this month? Not likely but I will give it a try.

I read 7 stories in May, bringing my total to 80 on the year. I've read most of those stories in the last couple days, when I finally dove into the April/May issue of Asimov's. It was the least amount of stories I've read in a month this year. And with 6 books to read, I don't know what the coming month will bring.

My comics totals are keeping in line with stories, as I read only 7 comics in May and a total of 80 for the year. For the first time this year, I read more trades than single issues (4 to 3). With only one more single issue I plan to pick up, that trend will continue. Those trades include the last 2 volumes of my Hellboy project, Y: The Last Man, and the first volume of All-Star Superman.

I bought, downloaded, or received 13 CDs in May. That's my biggest month of the year and brings my 2007 total to 47. One of those (Ben Kweller's latest) is a duplicate of something I got last year but it's an actual CD as opposed to mp3s, which is cool. I also got 2 songs, bringing that total to 10 on the year. A good month.

I saw 3 movies this month, which is fitting since they were all third movies in a series - Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. I've seen 7 movies so far and that was the most I've seen in a month. June looks to break that record, though.

As for DVDs, I'm not sure again. I don't really keep track. I watched Music & Lyrics. I showed The 40 Year-Old Virgin to Graham, who had never seen it. I watched The Big Lebowski again last weekend. Grant and I watched some episodes of Superman Animated Series Vol. 2. And Jill and I abandoned For Your Consideration. That might be it.

So, that's the month. I'm not going to be working as much in June, so maybe I'll have more time to continue sucking at the pop culture teat.